Entertaining: Spring Menu for 10 – Poached salmon with Dauphinose potatoes and more

This Easter was all about celebrating with friends and showcasing some Bulgarian traditions alongside the British ones. It was lovely to be able to host some of our good friends this time around. All together we were 11 people and that’s the most I’ve had for a ‘sit-down’ lunch so far. We’ve had bigger groups for other occasions but it’s always been buffet-style food and people helping themselves. I put together the following menu and I’m sharing some of the recipes from it here on the blog. I’ve picked out the more notable dishes which will give you a good basis of a meal for a slightly bigger group.   At the end of the post, I will also add some tips of what you can do in advance and rough timings to help you with planning. At the bottom of each recipe, I have included details of where I got the recipe from and a link to the original one where possible.  This menu made for a lovely late lunch which wasn’t too heavy. In big lunches like this, we are often too full by the time we get to dessert but in this case, everything felt just right.

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Poached Salmon, served with dauphinoise potatoes and pancetta peas and beans.

My Spring Menu for 10 includes:

  • Canapes: Borscht blinis with smoked salmon and lime Crème fraîche;
  • Starter: Lime, chilli and coriander crab with avocado and rocket;
  • Main: Poached salmon with dauphinoise potatoes and peas with pancetta.

Canapes: Borscht Blinis with Smoked Salmon and Lime Crème fraîche

Makes 26-30 | Prep 60 mins| Cook 30 minsSome effort

I got this recipe from the recently published charity book “A Taste of Glasgow“. It’s a fantastic cookbook which features a large number of recipes from Glasgow based restaurants and chefs. The book is no longer on sale but if you plan on using the recipe below, I would like to ask you to make a donation to Children’s 1st – the Charity that the book donated all its proceeds to. No donation is too small and you can donate here.

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Photo by Sarah Ahmad from The Floating Designer
You’ll need:
  1. For the Beetroot Pancakes:
    • 120g self-raising flour;
    • 1 large egg;
    • 1 cup (250ml) semi-skimmed milk;
    • 1 small beetroot, cooked;
    • Olive oil
    • Sea salt;
  2. Lime Crème fraîche:
    • 100ml Crème fraîche;
    • 1 lime zest and juice;
  3. Garnish:
    • 200g smoked salmon;
    • Samphire, blanched for 10 seconds then refreshed in ice cold water;
    • 1 small raw beetroot, sliced wafer thin into discs – halved if necessary.

For the beetroot pancakes. Firstly, incorporate all of the beetroot pancake ingredients (except the olive oil) into a blender and blitz until a smooth, consistent, lump-free texture is reached. Leave the batter to rest for 15 minutes. Add a little olive oil to a pan and place on a medium heat. Using a teaspoon, take a spoonful of batter and drop into the pan to cook – the pancakes should be about 3-4cm wide. When bubbles begin to appear on the top of the pancakes, turn them over and cook for 1 more minute. Cool on a cooling rack.

For the lime Crème fraîche, mix well the Crème fraîche and lime zest and juice. Chill until you need it.

To assemble and serve – start with placing the blinis on a serving plate. Add a little of the lime Crème fraîche, a small rosette of smoked salmon. Place a disk of raw beetroot and a small piece of blanched samphire.

This is a recipe by Campbell Mickel, one of Scotland’s best private chefs. I don’t have a link to the original recipe but do please donate to Children’s first when using this fantastic recipe from A Taste of Glasgow.

Starter: Lime, Chilli and Coriander Crab with Avocado & Rocket

Serves 10 | Prep 15 minutes | Quick and Easy | Gluten-Free

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Chilli, lime and coriander crab with avocado & rocket salad.
You’ll need:
  • 300g crab meat (I used 50-50 brown and white);
  • 3 tbsp coriander, chopped;
  • 1&1/2 red chilli, chopped;
  • 1&1/2 lime juice and juice of 1 lime for the mayo
  • 3 handfuls of rocket;
  • 3 sliced avocados;
  • 150ml mayo.

For the crab, mix the crab meat with the coriander, red chilli and 1+1/2 lime juice. Leave to chill until you are ready to serve. Make the zingy mayo by mixing the mayo and remaining lime juice and zest. Leave to chill until you are ready to serve. To serve, divide the rocket and avocados between 10 plates or small glasses. Top with the crab mix and serve with the mayo on the side.

Original recipe from Olive magazine, issue April 2011, available here.

Main: Foil-Poached Salmon

Serves 10 | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 1hr 30 mins plus coolingSome effort | Gluten-free

I bought this beautiful whole salmon to use in this recipe from my local fishmongers, The Fish Plaice, who are just fantastic. They have two locations in Glasgow and an online store. You can find more information about them on their website.

Tip: There is a helpful step by step guide in the original recipe on BBC Good Food website.

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Photo by Sarah Ahmad from The Floating Designer.
You’ll need:
  • Olive oil;
  • 3kg whole gutted and scaled salmon with the head removed;
  • bunch of dill;
  • 1 shallot, halved and very thinly sliced;
  • 5 tbsp dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc;
  • 1/2 cucumber thinly sliced (optional).

Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Place a large piece of double-width foil on top of a large baking sheet an and brush it with oil, then put the salmon in the centre. Tuck a few generous sprigs of dill and the shallots in the body cavity, then season. Carefully bring up the sides of the foil to surround the fish, season well inside and out, then pour over the wine. Seal the foil all the way around, but not too tightly on the fish – you need to give it a bit of space within the parcel. Bake for 1hr 30 mins.

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All ready to go in the oven!

Once the salmon has cooked, carefully unwrap the foil parcel and pull the dorsal fin on the spine of the fish. If the salmon is ready, it should come away very easily. Reseal the parcel and leave to cool – it will carry on cooking a little more as it cools. If you are not sure that the salmon is cooked sufficiently, return it to the oven for 10 mins more.

When the fish is slightly cooled (or cold if you are serving it cold), carefully peel away the skin from one side of the salmon. You may need to use a knife to get you started, but it should peel away easily after that. Leave the dill and shallot in place, as you may damage the flesh of the salmon if you try to remove them. Carefully turn the salmon over onto a plater and remove the skin flesh from the other side.

To serve, carefully remove the fillets from one side of the fish, leaving behind the bones. You will see that the fish has a natural divide of 2 long fillets on each side. Insert your knife along the centre and carefully ease off each fillet. Transfer the fillets to a platter, bone side up. Lift up the central bone from the remaining whole fish – it should come away in one piece – and remove the dill and shallot. Ease the 2 remaining fillets apart and remove any pin bones. Serve the 2 fillets decorated with the cucumber slices and with lemon wedges.

Original recipe from BBC Good Food magazine, issue May 2013, available here.

Side dish: Potatoes Dauphinoise

Serves 8-10 | Prepare 15 minutes | Cook 1hr 15 mins | Easy | Gluten-free
You’ll need:
  • 15g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing;
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced,
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed,
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves,
  • 170 ml single cream;
  • 170 ml double cream;
  • 100 ml whole milk;
  • 1kg king edward potatoes, peeled and finely sliced.

While the salmon is cooking, start prepping the potatoes. Grease a 1.5 litre baking dish. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, until foaming. Stir in the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and thyme, cook for another 3 minutes. Add the creams and milk to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer and season.

Tip the potatoes into the pan and simmer for 6-7 minutes. Transfer everything to the baking dish. Place in the oven with the salmon about half way through it’s cooking time on a shelf below. When the fish is out, place in the middle of the oven and increase the heat to 170C fan, and cook for another 30-40 minutes until browned and cooked through, while the fish is resting and you are preparing it for serving.

Adapted from a recipe from myWaitrose Magazine, issue May 2016. 

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The sides: Dauphinoise potatoes and pancetta peas & beans. Photo by Sarah Ahmad from The Floating Designer.

Side dish: Peas & beans with pancetta & mint

Serves 8-10 | Prep 5 mins | Cook 15 minsEasy | Gluten-free Vegetarian
You’ll need:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil;
  • 100g wafer thin smoked pancetta rashers;
  • 480g pack frozen soya beans;
  • 200g broccoli;
  • 500g frozen petits pois;
  • juice of 1 lemon;
  • food handful mint leaves, roughly chopped.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the pancetta until it turns golden, taking care not to burn it. Lift from the pan, then tip the soya beans into the pan juices and arrange the broccoli on top. Add 6 tbsp water; cover tightly and steam for 10 mins, or until the broccoli is tender. Meanwhile, strip the pancetta into pieces with scissors.

Stir the petits pois into the pan and cook for 2 mins more, then remove from the heat and toss in the lemon juice, mint and crispy pancetta pieces.

Original recipe from BBC Good Food magazine, issue April 2011, available here.

Tips

If you’d like to get ahead, you can prep quite a few of the elements the day before or get them started first so you free up more time for the salmon. The day before, you can prep the following:

  • Canapes: You can make the beetroot blinis for the canapes the day before and seal them in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can make the pancake mix the day before and let it sit in your fridge until the following day. You can also make the zesty Crème fraîche in advance.
  • Starter: You can make the crab mix and the mayo for the starter the day before and let them sit in your fridge. Your crab will be flavoured even more that way so that’s a bonus too! Just make sure you bring to room temperature before you plate up.
  • Main: You can make the potatoes dauphinoise up to the point before they go in the oven. Just bring to room temperature about 20 minutes before you put in the oven.

Tip 1 – Quicker & Simpler Main: For a speedy and slightly simpler solution, you can use 2 boneless, skinless salmon sides, then stack them on top of each other with some finely chopped dill and basil and the sliced shallot. Wrap in foil with the wine and seasoning and cook for 10 minutes less time. Then you can serve straight away without having to peel the skin and prep the fish after cooking.

Tip 2 – make a stock of the fish remains – head, bones, skin: I cut the head and tail from the fish at home and used them to make homemade fish stock. All you need to do is put them in the pan, add 150 ml white wine, 2 peeled and quartered onions, a couple of carrots very roughly chopped, a handful of parsley with the stalks and cover with water. Season really well. Boil for about 30 minutes, then remove the fish and veg, and reduce further. Place in an ice cube trays and transfer to a ziplock bag once frozen.

I hope you enjoy this fantastic fish based menu for 10. Let me know in the comments if you make this or elements of it and what you’d do differently!

 

Emilia’s Bulgarian Bean Soup

My friend Val tried out making my Bulgarian Bean Soup which I did for Christmas Eve. Check out how she got on with it in her post!

One Soup at a Time

When I started my blog I asked some friends for their own soup recipe – either their absolute favourite or one that means something to them. Emilia from Food Notes (@FoodNotesGla) instantly came up trumps with this recipe for Bean Soup, a traditional Bulgarian soup served on Christmas Eve. Emilia explains more about this Bulgarian tradition here.

Although this is served at Christmas, there is no need to wait until then before trying it for yourself. It’s a hearty soup that will heat you up on any cold day. The ingredients are all ones we’re familiar with in Scottish cooking but this combination gives a slightly different twist. Although it looks like a variation on Scotch Broth, it really is a different flavour.

The recipe below is taken directly from Emilia’s blog. Any notes of my own are in brackets.

Bean Soup

Serves 10 (It will definitely…

View original post 376 more words

Simple chicken & veg soup

There is nothing better than a warming soup on a cold day. This soup requires only a few ingredients and it’s a lovely winter warmer. Not to mention how quick and easy it is to make! Takes about 30 minutes to make and it’s perfect to take for an office lunch as well as eating at home. Serve with croutons and some crème fraîche for added deliciousness.

Simple chicken & veg soup

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Serves 4 | Prep 10 minutes | Cooks 20-30 minutes | Easy | Gluten Free

Ingredients

  • 250g chicken breast, cut into chunks;
  • olive oil;
  • 1 onion, chopped;
  • 400g courgettes, chopped;
  • 400g carrots, chopped;
  • 1l – 1.5l chicken stock (if making GF, make sure you use GF stock);
  • 2-3 whole peppercorns;
  • chopped parsley and spring onions to serve.

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Brown the chicken slightly for a few minutes. Spoon the chicken out of the pan. Add a little more olive oil and cook the onion until softened and slightly browned. Add the courgettes and carrots to the pan and cook with the onion for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the chicken, the chicken stalk and enough water to fill the pan. Add the whole peppercorns and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. When ready, put the soup in a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Serve with croutons, some crème fraîche, chopped spring onions and parsley.

Carrot & Ginger Bhajis and Spiced Paneer with Dhal

Over the weekend I had two very good friends over for food and boardgames. Inspired by Glasgow’s current trend for Indian food served in “small plates”, I decided to create a similar experience at home. So I went about to preparing a menu where I wanted to feature authentic and tasty Indian food. The challenge was even bigger as one of my friends is, in fact, Indian and also has been vegetarian all of her life (until recently, anyway). So, here I was, cooking vegetarian Indian food for a semi-vegetarian Indian woman… How could that go wrong?!

Here is what our menu looked like: Squash curry; spiced paneer with dhal; carrot & ginger bhajis; M’s special Indian fried rice; and naan bread (sadly not homemade). I’m pleased to say that everything was delicious and I got the seal of approval for my Indian menu by everyone. Today, I’m uploading two of the recipes which really stood out: the spiced paneer with dhal and the carrot and ginger bhajis. The curry was also delicious, but I felt I had eaten better vegetarian curries which I would prefer to upload.

The bhajis, dhal and paneer would make a perfect accompaniment to any Indian menu, either as a side dish or a starter. I used the two recipes below for my menu which served 4 people comfortably, as part of a larger menu.

 

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Bhajis and yogurt dip, bottom left; dhal and paneer, bottom right.

 

Spiced Paneer with Lentil Dhal

Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side/starter; Time: 30 minutes | Easy | Vegetarian, Gluten Free

Ingredients:

  • 75g lentils (I used red, the original recipe called for green);
  • 500 ml vegetable stock;
  • 1 small onion, grated;
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped;
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric, plus a pinch extra for the paneer;
  • 1 tsp garam masala, plus a bit extra for the paneer;
  • a small bunch coriander, chopped;
  • 230-50g paneer, cut into wedges or cubes;
  • groundnut or sunflower oil;

Method:

1. Make the dhal: Put the first 7 ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain any excess liquid, then stir in most of the coriander.

2. For the paneer: Toss the paneer with a little oil, seasoning and a little turmeric and garam masala. Fry in a non-stick pan until golden, turning frequently so it doesn’t burn. Spoon the lentils into a serving dish and top with the paneer. Serve with naan bread if eating as a main.

Recipe from olive magazine issue February 2016.

Carrot and Ginger Bhajis with coriander dip

This recipe uses gram flour, which is made of chickpeas. It is usually available in larger supermarkets in the ‘world’ aisle, or from specialist middle-eastern shops. If you prefer, you can use plain flour instead.

Note that it’s very important that you don’t add the carrots until the very last moment as they will make the batter too wet.

Makes: 12 bhajis | Time: 20 minutes | Easy | Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggs;
  • 50g piece of fresh ginger, grated;
  • 100g gram flour (see note above);
  • 1/2 large red chilli, finely chopped;
  • 1 tsp garam masala;
  • 1 tsp turmeric;
  • 1 tsp ground ginger;
  • 1 lime, juiced;
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji);
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes;
  • sunflower oil for deep frying;
  • 300g carrots, grated.

For the dip:

  • 150g yogurt;
  • 2 limes, juiced;
  • bunch fresh coriander, chopped.

Method

1. Mix all the bhaji ingredients apart from the oil and the carrots to form a thick batter. Heat a pan with a 2cm layer of oil over a medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Mix the carrots in the batter until well combined, then press the mix in your hands to form 12 balls.

2. Lower the balls into the hot oil with a spoon and press down lightly with the back of the spoon into a patty. Fry in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen towel to drain off excess oil.

3. Meanwhile, mix the dip ingredients and season. Serve with the bhajis.

Recipe from Delicious magazine, issue January 2014.

Christmas Eve, the Bulgarian Way

Christmas is a fantastic time of the year. I love that it brings everyone together, it calls for gathering with friends and family and spending time with our loved ones. In Bulgaria, Christmas Eve is a big thing and though we also celebrate Christmas Day, most of my childhood memories of Christmas are all of family dinners on the 24th.

Traditionally, it’s all based on religious customs (Orthodox Christianity). December would be a period of fasting and the 24th is the last day of it. Because of this, a traditional Bulgarian Christmas Eve dinner would only include food that’s free of meat produce, practically all vegan. Though I’m not religious, and most of my family is not very strictly religious, to this day every year we keep with the traditions and cook authentic food for Christmas Eve.

Here is what a traditional menu would include:

  • Bean soup/stew or lentil soup;
  • Stuffed peppers;
  • Stuffed pickled cabbage leaves;
  • Stuffed vine leaves;
  • Variety of salads: such as roast pepper salad; bean salad; potato salad, pickled cabbage salad and etc;
  • Pickles and olives;
  • Traditional round soda bread – Pitka (which also has a coin hidden in it).

Furthermore, there are certain rules that have to be followed. There has to be an odd number of dishes on the table and the bread has to be broken by the ‘head’ of the table/family.

 

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Christmas Eve festive table – the Bulgarian way! From left to right: Pickles, bean salad, roast pepper salad, dolmades, “Snejanka” salad, “pitka” bread, pickled hot peppers, stuffed peppers, pickled cabbage salad.

 

Here are three traditional recipes that we usually cook every year for Christmas Eve:

Stuffed Peppers with Rice

Serves: 10 | Time: 2hrs | Difficulty: Easy | Suitable for: Vegan diet; Gluten-free diet (just swap the flour for GF flour).

Tip: You can do Step 1 the day before.

Ingredients

  • 10 peppers (red, yellow and orange) – their tops and seeds removed;
  • 1 cup long grain rice;
  • 1 onion: finely chopped;
  • 4 garlic cloves: finely chopped;
  • 4 tomatoes chopped or 1 can chopped tomatoes;
  • 3 bay leaves;
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika;
  • sunflower oil;
  • plain flour (or gluten free plain flour)

Method:

  1. Make the rice stuffing. Wash and rinse the rice under cold water until water is clear. Heat a few tbsp of the oil (enough for it to be well covered) in a deep pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook for one minute, stirring. Add the rice and stir well, reduce the heat to low. When the rice starts becoming transparent, add 1/2 tsp salt and the paprika and mix well. Add one cup water and cook under a lid until the rice absorbs the water. Note: the rice should not be fully cooked at this point and it should still be a bit ‘tough’. Take off the heat.
  2. Fill each pepper with the rice mixture until they are about 2/3rds full. Don’t overfill them as this might cause them to burst in the oven when the rice expands. Sprinkle a bit of flower on the top of each pepper.
  3. When ready to cook the peppers, heat the oven to 180C fan. Spread the tomatoes in a very large and deep roasting tin (or two medium ones), add 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp oil; and the bay leaves and mix well. Add about 1 cup of water (the tin should be about half full with the water). Place the peppers in the tin making sure that they are slightly laying down (so water can go in them). Cover with foil and bake for about 90 minutes, removing the foil in the last 30 minutes. Check the peppers after about 45 minutes. If the rice is almost cooked you can reduce the cooking time slightly.

Bean Soup

Serves: 10 | Time: About an hour, plus overnight soaking | Difficulty: Easy | Suitable for: Vegan diet; Gluten-free diet.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white beans;
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped;
  • 1 onion, finely chopped;
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped;
  • 1 tsp dried mint;
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika;
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme;
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil.

Method

1. Soak the beans in cold water the night before. When ready to cook, drain the beans wash it and put in a large pan filled with water. When the water boils, drain the beans and repeat. This will ensure that the beans are easier to cook.

2. When you have boiled the beans twice, you are ready to start making the soup. Add the beans and a 1,5litres of water to a large pan. When the beans boil, remove the white foam with a spoon and let the beans boil on low heat. It’s very important that you DO NOT add any salt until the very end of the cooking process.

3. Cook the beans for about an hour until they have softened. Add the chopped vegetables, dried herbs, spices, oil and salt to taste. Leave to cook for another 10 minutes or so and then remove from the heat.

Round Bread “Sun” (Pitka)

Serves: 6 | Time: 1 hr + 1 hr rising | Difficulty: A bit of effort

NOTE: This is dish is not suitable for vegans.

This is probably the hardest dish to make on the Bulgarian Christmas Eve table. It requires more hands on time than other dishes and bread always requires a bit of effort and patience! However, I can assure you that it’s worth it at the end.

Ingredients

  • 15g easy yeast
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 240g strong white flour;
  • 1 tbsp sugar;
  • 1 tsp salt;
  •  2 eggs, 1 separated;
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil;
  • Butter, for spreading.

Method

  1. Mix the yeast with the lukewarm milk to activate the yeast. Reserve the egg yolk from the separated egg. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, egg and egg white, milk with yeast and the oil (you can do this in a bread machine as well or by hand. Knead the dough for about ten minutes on a floured surface, it should have a good spring to it when pinched. If it is too dry you can add more milk, or more flour if the dough is too wet. When the dough is ready, transfer to a greased clean bowl and cover with greased cling film. Leave in a dark, warm place to rise. Take out when it’s doubled in size (should take about half an hour).
  2. Grease a large round tin and put a bit of flour in it. When the dough has risen, cut out a ball about the size of your palm and put it in the centre of the tin. The rest of the dough is split into two.
  3. Roll out both halves into medium-large circles and make sure they are both the same size. Spread some butter on one of the dough circles and then place the other one on top. Press them together and roll out to a larger circle. Spread with more butter.
  4. Cut into 12 triangles (First into quarters, and then each quarter into three). Roll each triangle from the large side to the triangle tip like a croissant.
  5. Put the roll-ups around the dough ball. Leave the dough in a warm, dark place to rise a bit more (leave for around 30-40minutes). Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190C fan.
  6. Mix the remaining yolk with a few drops of water. Spread the yolk over the risen dough then bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in comes out clean.

So here we are. Three fantastic recipes from the traditional Bulgarian Christmas Eve table. You can also make the potato salad from the “Swedish meatballs with potato salad” recipe I posted earlier. I will post more Bulgarian recipes on the blog for you next year!

Happy holidays everyone 🙂

~Em